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Storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste wants to inspire youth to find their voices

Updated July 13, 2022 at 3:53 p.m.

Local Gullah-Geechee storyteller Lillian Grant-Baptiste has launched a series of speaking engagements at Live Oak Public Libraries called “Speak: Your Voice & Story Matters” to encourage teens and young adults to find their voices. 

Steeped in the traditions of Gullah-Geechee storytelling, Grant-Baptiste has been an orator for decades, getting her start more than 25 years ago when she worked with the local housing authority. 

“I worked with a group of young people for a rites of passage program helping them to find, name and affirm themselves,” Grant-Baptiste began. “I helped them to do that through storytelling, particularly stories of the African Diaspora,” she continued. 

Grant-Baptiste believes that storytelling is a useful tool that–though it dates back centuries–remains powerful and relevant today. 

“[Storytelling] helps you to realize who you are and where you came from. The power of your story and the story of your community helps you to find your own sense of identity,” she said. “It also gives you strength to move and to overcome obstacles because you know from the story of your history that your ancestors have overcome obstacles. It stirs you to action,” she explained. 

She was motivated to launch her library storytelling series to inspire youth, particularly middle and high schoolers, to believe in the power of their stories. She also encourages them to use that power to effect positive change in their communities. 

“It’s so important that we lift the voices of young people, and–not only do we invite them to the table–but that we allow them to have a voice at the table. Young people have tremendous energy. They have insight. They understand things about our community…. Their voices matter. Their words are powerful, and their story is powerful.” Grant-Baptiste expressed.

In her library series, Grant-Baptiste will discuss a variety of motivational topics aimed at uplifting, empowering and galvanizing youth to contribute positively to their communities.

“I will talk about the power of self affirmation, [and] the power of authenticity. . . We’ll also talk about the importance of unity, collective work and responsibility, and how to be courageous as we move forward in doing the work that we’re called to do,” she said. 

Additionally, she’ll also highlight local Civil Rights leaders like Benjamin Van Clark, emphasizing what youth can learn from these historic figures. She encourages teens and young adults to come attend her sessions to discover the power inherent within their personal stories:

“It will be a time of sharing and learning from other young people. A time where [youth] can begin to craft their story, and receive tools and tips on how to be a more effective thought leader in the community. How to find their passion, tap into that passion, and turn that passion and their gifts into their voice to effect change in a real and lasting way in the community.” 

Grant-Baptiste said she hopes to inspire young people to bring their energy, ideas and passions to the forefront for the betterment of the entire community. She envisions a coalition of people of varying ages advocating for positive change locally and beyond. 

“There’s a proverb that says young people walk faster but elders know the road. We need everybody involved. We need young people’s energy in coming up with solutions and putting those solutions to action…. One day, they will be the people stepping up and taking our community forward,” she expressed. “So it’s important that we train them now, not just train and teach them, but to undergird and walk them through the process. Our community is better when we all work together in collective work and responsibility,” she added.

Through these sessions, Grant-Baptiste said she hopes to equip young people in attendance with the tools they need to be introspective, determine their gifts and then use those gifts to make a difference in the community. 

Her “Speak: Your Voice & Story Matters” events will take place at various library locations throughout the month of July. Visit libcal.liveoakpl.org/ and search “speak” for more information about these sessions. 


Published July 13, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

     

Chantel Britton

Chantel Britton is a compelling storyteller with an ever-growing curiosity. She's built a rewarding writing career for herself in addition to serving five years as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. She's an NPR nerd with a deep passion for all things travel, sustainable living and adventure. She...
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